Physical Play

30 For 30 did a documentary a few years ago called “The Bad Boys”. The title refers to the mantra given to the Detroit Pistons teams of the late 1980’s. They won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990, but they mos notoriously known for their extremely physical style of play. Now I am all for being physical. I believe it can give you a mental edge over your opponent and provides a good base for a sound defense. However, it can definitely be taken too far.

The Pistons were masters. If an opposing player drove into the lane, they most likely would take an elbow or knee and then be knocked down to the floor. Pushing, shoving, grabbing, elbowing, and even head-butting. You name it, they did it. It even rattled the great Michael Jordan for a time. These Pistons were very talented, lead by Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars doing the scoring, a “pre-tattoos” Dennis Rodman as their glue man, and Rick Mahorn and the very much hated Bill Laimbeer as the frontline. I think Laimbeer set the record for most times getting punched in the face during one season. I swear, these guys were monsters. Off the bench came Vinnie “the microwave” Johnson, Mark Aguirre, and the also testy John Salley. Everyone hated them, but they embraced the “Bad Boys” mantle and used it to their advantage until a revamped and focused Bulls team swept them in the 1991 East Finals.

The Pistons paved away for the 1990’s that were filled with physical teams, although no one took it to the extremes like them. You had different kinds. Pat Riley’s Knicks and Heat teams along with Larry Brown’s Pacers embraced the knock the hell out of drivers idea, while Lenny Wilkens’ Cavs and Jerry Sloan’s Jazz were more physical on the perimeter than anywhere else (watch some Stockton highlights). The officials were smarter and regulated the games in a way that allowed physical play, but kept all of the unnecessary roughness out of the way.

Today, if players attempted to go about the game like that, they would foul out within a matter of minutes. You can’t even touch guys on defense anymore. A simple shove is a foul, flagrant fouls are called way too much, and too many shooting fouls are called in general. It is hurting the game. I understand that they want to eliminate injuries (it hasn’t) and make the game seem better (whatever that means), but go about it another way. You’ll be happy you did.

The video below shows some highlights of the Bad Boys dirty antics, but also sheds light on their talent as a team. As nasty as they were, they did win consecutive titles and that cannot go unnoticed.

Video Credit to: LarsLakers

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